Josh Barnett is a catch wrestler (type of submission wrestling) and has a controversial relationship with BJJ.
Barnett competed at the World Jiu-Jitsu No-Gi Championships in southern California and won the “Ultra Heavyweight” division with a judges’ decision over Bruno Paulista. Barnett celebrated the victory on his Twitter account, proclaiming “Catch Wrestling lives!”, much to the chagrin of BJJ competitors like Pablo Popovitch, who told Graciemag.com before this event:
“[W]e can’t let a guy who does catch wrestling win the Jiu-Jitsu World Championship.”
Feeling confident from his win in the No Gi Worlds, he then competed in the GI at the California Classic 2009 BJJ Tournament on November 15, 2009. in the Black Belt GI Absolute division, Barnett first beat the much lighter Otavio Sousa by foot lock and then lost a decision to ADCC veteran and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion Romulo Barral from Gracie Barra. On December 19, 2009, Erik Paulson awarded Barnett his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt. Even though Barnett had never trained in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu he was given his belt based on competition merit and overall knowledge.
In this recent interview with Bloody Elbow, Barnett had this to say about the revival of catch wrestling, BJJ, and FILA Wrestling attempt of developing submission wrestling:
Steph Daniels: Do you see any chance of the catch-as-catch-can style returning to the US, and is there any part you could play in its revival as a grappling sport?
Josh Barnett: I take part in its revival every time I take to the ring or the mat, or my fighters take to the ring or the mat. Anything that you want to create has to start with you first. You have to be the drop in the water that creates the ripple that will widen out and touch others. I think catch wrestling can make a comeback. I think it would be the perfect component to USA wrestling.
They tried a grappling formula, and I was actually a fan of the first iteration of that grappling formula and the ruleset, but it took on a more jiujitsu aspect afterwards. That’s not about hating jiu-jitsu, it’s more about the idea of creating separate arts. Jiu-Jitsu is an art, with a full spectrum of competitors, events and rules that have been around for quite some time. To create a grappling structure that’s the same doesn’t really make sense to me.
I think jiu-jitsu is it’s own art and has its own place, but I see jiu-jitsu as taking place in the gi. If you don’t have a gi on, I don’t see any reason why it should still be just like jiu-jitsu. You might as well have the ability to create a different environment with that.